Shh! Letting you in on a pastry chef secret.
As a classically-trained pastry chef, I know that this should probably be a recipe for warm, decadent, triple-chocolate brownies, made from scratch using only the finest cocoa powder and chocolate. But this is not that article. This is about how to save time and hack a boxed brownie mix to make it taste even better. Homemade, even.
Good brownies taste fudgy and rich, with that nice crackled skin on top and ever-so-slightly crisp around the edge pieces. Great brownies have all that, plus a deep chocolate flavor and maybe some texture from chocolate chips and some walnuts. Here’s how to get a better brownie out of the best brownie mix.
Step One: Start with a good boxed mix.
There is only so much lipstick you can put on this fudgy chocolate pig, so to speak. So to hack a boxed brownie, start with the best brownie mix. The only choice is Ghirardelli. I recommend either Ghirardelli’s Double Chocolate or Chocolate Supreme brownie mixes. Both are excellent.
You’ll also like: The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies and Pecan Pumpkin Bread
Step Two: Add your secret ingredients and bonus mix-ins.
Every pastry chef knows that certain “secret” ingredients heighten certain flavors, and may not be listed in a recipe’s ingredients. One of these ingredients is fresh lemon juice. Used for fruit desserts and sweets, like pies or preserves, lemon heightens and brightens the flavors of fruit without making it taste citrusy.
For brownie purposes, and with chocolate in general, the secret ingredient is coffee. Instant espresso powder, to be exact. Just as lemon juice brightens fruit, coffee adds flavor and depth to chocolate. After a bit of taste testing, I prefer Medaglia D’Oro, an Italian brand that is widely available.
The third secret ingredient is pure vanilla extract. The sweet aroma adds an extra layer of depth to the chocolate flavor.
Finally, kick the brownies up with added chocolate chips or walnuts for an extra-decadent, homemade-y dessert.
Step Three: Lie like a rug.
No one needs to know. It is no one’s business that you hacked a boxed brownie mix into such a delicious dessert. Because you added so many great additional ingredients — not to mention your own egg and oil as directed by the box — your brownies officially have been transformed into homemade. The way I see it, Ghirardelli merely premixed the dry ingredients (sugar, flour, cocoa, leavening) for you, like the personal baking assistant you deserve.
What is your boxed brownie mix of choice? Share in the comments, below.
Best "Homemade" Boxed Brownies
- 1 box Ghirardelli brownie mix of choice
- 1 egg, or per box ingredients
- 1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil, or per box directions
- 1/4 cup water, or per box directions
- 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- pinch kosher salt
- 3/4 cup chopped walnuts, optional
- 1 cup chocolate chips, optional (Add if the mix does not already have them. I like Hershey's Special Dark chocolate chips.)
- Preheat the oven to 325°F, or whatever is on the box, and grease or line your baking dish. I use an 8" x 8" square brownie pan.
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the oil, water, egg, vanilla, and espresso powder. Don't worry if the espresso powder forms blobs. Just keep whisking a little more and it will all dissolve.
- Add the dry brownie mix to the liquid, along with a pinch of salt. Add the nuts and chocolate chips, if using. Stir just until fully combined. Small lumps in the batter are ok.
- Bake according to the package directions. Let cool before cutting and serving, either plain or garnished with berries, whipped cream, ice cream, or powdered sugar.PRO TIP: Brownies are very sticky when cut. To get nice, clean edges, slice through the brownies, then pull the knife toward you to remove it, instead of lifting it out of the brownies. Then wipe the blade down with a warm, wet paper towel between cuts.